“Don’t worry about it, I can only draw stickmen.”
This common sentiment from parents and teachers is driving me NUTS. It’s also sometimes said as, “I can’t even draw a stick man!”
Seriously?! Enough already.
There are a few things going on here, so let’s get deep down into it, because I am sick and tired of this bogus sentiment shutting down creativity and limiting possibility.
The reason you either can’t draw a stick man, or can “only” draw is stick man, is because you’re lazy and you have no confidence. You aren’t willing to take a risk, you aren’t willing to build a skill and you are more than happy to limit the kids you live or work with as they find comfort in your chorus of ONLY drawing stick men or NOT EVEN bothering.
But guess what else? As I practiced, copied characters I liked and pushed myself to learn, I found myself more comfortable with it. I experimented, tried different things and made a lot of REALLY UGLY PEOPLE DRAWINGS. But every now and then, I can draw one I like.
It’s about time and it’s about grit and it’s about effort and it’s about not having to perform on freaking command.
What are we teaching our kids when we tell them not to worry about it, because we too cannot or can only draw a stick figure? We are teaching them:
- Effort doesn’t matter. Just stick to the simple forms.
- You don’t need to push yourself. I didn’t, and so what? So you probably don’t need to try hard in math or on the field or with your reading and writing, either. If it doesn’t apply to you, don’t bother!
- Art is for artistes. Only the uniquely gifted may create openly and without fear. (Guess what? The “uniquely gifted” have worked their asses off and create with massive amounts of fear, most of the time. But they actually push and try.)
- Art doesn’t matter. Just get something on your page. You don’t need to try to find your voice or communicate anything beyond a stick with a head.
- You can be like me. I don’t want you to be better.
I’m not saying that you have to draw well. I’m not saying that everyone must be creative and artistic. I am, however, saying that you’ve GOT to stop limiting the imagination, exploration and fascination that kids can have with the world around them by tipping the first art-domino with one well-intended line: “I can’t even draw a stick man!”